Thursday, August 28, 2003

Braces for Life

“Relax lang ang lower lip”, my dentist kept repeating during my latestappointment, as he proceeded to insert the wires and bands into thebrackets of my teeth. It turns out that my muscles are so sensitivethat they are quick to react at the slightest sense of pain, to protectmyself. With my eyes closed, I wondered how to tell my muscles to relaxwhen pliers, scissors, and other metallic objects were being used on mypoor little mouth. “Relax, Ella, relax”, I told myself, but it didn’twork. I was as tense as ever, my hands balled into fists.

I brought this upon myself. I was the one who approached the ortho,with a lot of prodding from my mother, to ask for braces to correct theirregular growth of my teeth. I even promised to pay him and his team asum of money just so they could inflict pain on me on a regular basis.I thought I could use the forced diet, too. The first few visits wereindeed painful. After some time I got used to the procedure and thoughtI could live with this for the next year, for the sake of aesthetics.But I spoke too soon! The next several visits proved to be longer andmore complicated than the initial stages. My speech has been affectedtoo, since I developed some lisps due to my struggle to avoid the sorescaused by the foreign objects I had willingly installed on my teeth. Ihave an extended run of my toothbrush time daily now, as Bactidol andMint floss are, more than ever, no longer an option.

Yet I endure the oral torture, the defective speech (can’t realize mydream to be Tina Monzon-Palma’s protégée), the monthly payments, thedaily ceremony in front of the bathroom mirror, and the deprivation ofsome food (like corn on the cob and bubble gum), because I believe inthe end result of all these --> A full Gloria Diaz smile, as my dentistpromised. (As of now I have half the Gloria Diaz smile daw according tohis professional opinion.)

Would that I could have as much faith in what God is doing in my life!If only I were more cooperative to Him. A year ago He made me a promiseand then said, “Be still, and know that I am God.” However, every timemy heart muscles sense danger they contract to protect myself from pain.Yet I know that I asked for this. I know that I like His promise. Hedidn’t promise an easy ride, and I supposedly know what this entails.But I’m only human. In my earnest efforts to relax I end up being a lottenser, so God’s hands cannot shape me with ease.

When I was learning to swim my instructor kept telling the class thatstiff movements would only cause us pain and slow us down. When wefinally learned to relax, we glided on the water like mermaids and wereable to swim longer distances.

Para sa mga matigas ang ulo katulad ko, God is our Potter. Hope wecould all become like clay and allow Him to mold us to the best peoplewe could be. :-)

Sunday, August 24, 2003

A Man of God Has Captured My Heart

Last night I worshipped God . I stood,danced, and praised Him for His victory over sickness and temptation. I raised my hands in thanksgiving for the gift of family and the gift ofmusic. I reached the heights of worship and praise during the 20th anniversary concert of Gary Valenciano at the Music Museum.

Movie trailers and reviews say that you should watch a certainhighly-recommended movie "if you're going to watch one movie this year". Well, for me "if you're going to watch one concert this year", I highlysuggest that you catch the remaining shows of this Gary V. Hits @ theMusic Museum series. Whether or not you get the chance to watch thisconcert I'm raving about, I'm going to proceed to tell you about itanyway. I cannot help it, after reading the Psalm for today:

PSALM 128:1b-2, 3, 4, 5

R. "See how the Lord blesses those who fear him. Blessed are you who fearthe Lord, who walk in his ways! For you shall eat the fruit of yourhandiwork; blessed shall you be, and favored. R. You wife shall be like afruitful vine in the recesses of your home; Your children like oliveplants around your table. R. Behold, thus is the man blessed who fears theLord. R. The Lord bless you from Zion: may you see the prosperity ofJerusalem all the days of your life. R."

Thus is the man blessed who fears the Lord. There is no doubt in my heartthat Gary V. is our brother who lives in "holy fear" of the Lord. Musicaltalents grow on trees here in the Philippines. Even in our own branch herein Lingkod QC we are so used to beautiful voices in harmony and musicianswho provide us rhythm to groove to. What sets Gary V. apart from the restof the Filipino artists, however, is the way he performs, for he is likean arrow pointing to God and witnessing to His faithfulness. When Gary V.sings, dances, plays instruments, and gives his spiels, he does not say"Hey, look at me. I'm a handsome man swathed in Swarovski crystals who isimpressing you with MY talents." So Gary V.'s designer chose to dot hisall-black number with some glittering crystals, but those little starsthat shone in his outfit sparkled not to dazzle the audience with theartist's pride, but served to shine like the the flashes of light thatfollow a holy man.

I have grown up to his music, I must confess, but I chose to write abouthis concert not just as a fan temporarily in-love with him. I want tohonor him for I believe that what he strives to stand for is not easy. Inan industry corrupted by pride and ambition, Gary V. has, for the past 20years, managed to witness to his audience about God's work in his life. I've seen Gary V. perform in benefit concerts with as much gusto as if hewere being paid in hundreds of thousands to sing "The Warrior is a Child".Last night, he gave a moving tribute to his mother, that moved me tobecome a mother (hey with a son like that a mother's heart can't help butburst, I reckon... I want that...). He and his band sang a version of"Letting Go" that left the audience slack-jawed in disbelief. He saidthat the words of that song were his message to his fellow performers,that beyond the lights and the fame there is Someone Bigger. He jumpedand danced with his son Gabriel, candidly admitting that he could nolonger keep up with his son's energy level. He downed two bottles ofmineral water consecutively after Gabriel left the stage (Tiguls na siGary V!).

There was some dancing but not to the level of Gary's previous concerts atbigger venues, yet the audience could not help leaping to their feet. Some even shed tears of joy as God spoke to them through the music. Earlyduring the show Gary said that he has only lasted this long and reachedthis level of success because Someone promised him that if he put Himfirst in his life, He would always be there. That was his introduction tothe song "I Will be Here". He shared that juvenile diabetes usuallyblinds the patient after five years, but he has lived through 25 years ofthe ailment and his doctors are amazed how clear his vision remains. Garygrabbed every opportunity to thank and praise God and it did not soundlike a script he has to do two nights a week for five weeks. He did itlike a prayer meeting leader exhorting his community to worship.

Andworship we did!

There were hilarious moments in the show, too. Gary V. showed hischildlike side when he played the audience for a full 20 minutes with,well something I cannot share without spoiling the fun for some of you whoplan to see the show. Suffice to say that we were in stitches watchingGary's antics and reacting to his spontaneous remarks.

Some people are given gifts and they hide it out of fear. Some people aregiven gifts and claim all the glory. To see our very own "TotalPerformer" sharing God's love number after spectacular number has left mejoyful and hopeful. Gary V. shows us that as warriors, children, artists,fathers, mothers, wives, in whatever roles we play, we could use these asour way of glorifying God, and God would bless us indeed. Gary V. standsout as a man of God in these times, when the question often arises whethergood men still follow the Lord, and whether they succeed at it.

Will this message reach him? I hope he already knows that his dream hasbeen fulfilled, his dream of touching hearts and not just ears. I praiseand thank God for my brother Gary Valenciano.


After the show the brothers and sisters and I were telling each other thatthe concert was just like attending a prayer meeting! Someone commented,though, that prayer meetings don't cost P600. :) We were at thebleachers of that small, intimate venue, but every peso was worth it. Itfelt like being front seat in a foretaste of heavenly worship. I may beexaggerating, but that is always a writer's prerogative. And a fan's. :)

Friday, August 08, 2003

Blessings on My 29th Birthday

One of my addictions as an eight-year old girl living in Olongapo City was a Game & Watch toy owned by my older cousin. Every afternoon, for about a month or so, I would rush home from school, change out of my uniform, and play Popeye inside her optical shop, oblivious to the rest of the world. During those moments my only concern was how to catch the goodies that fell from the sky for Olive Oyl and I, and to keep them from Brutus who wasted no time in rocking my boat.

I think those goodies included whole pineapples, cans of spinach, bottles of cola, and one other item I cannot recall at the moment. Failure to catch any of these things meant they would be gone, wasted and lost to me forever. I never got to enjoy any of the things I caught as my hands were busy catching the next surprise that was thrown my way.

More than two decades later I'm still at the game. I juggle too many things at the same time. I don't have time to sit down and savor a slice of pineapple or a bottle of cola. I don't eat the spinach that is meant to strengthen me. I just acquire, acquire, acquire until my boat gets too heavy and I tip over. Sometimes the enemy succeeds in distracting me so he could get what I have and make me feel lousy for losing.

God's blessings come in torrents. Yes, I try to fix my eyes on heaven but I hardly have time to enjoy the blessings provided here on earth. My boat is easily rocked by the challenges and storms that I face, making me forget how blessed I actually am.

I met a car accident but loved ones came to my rescue immediately after. I had health and car insurance, plus the erring driver eventually paid. Even though I hardly enjoyed it, being a lawyer and having lawyers as friends worked to my advantage for I was able to protect my rights. The car is even looking better now because of the brand new spare parts that were installed. For three weeks I experienced the service of loved ones who drove for me. Whenever I needed to take a taxi, I had some cash to pay for the fare. Instead of being grateful, however, I was short-tempered and anxious during that trying month.

Rejoice in all circumstances, that is what Scripture tells us. For two consecutive years, brothers and sisters threw surprise birthday parties for me. Last year there were three celebrations in fact, and this made me promise myself that I would give back in due time. News spread early this year that court lawyers would receive a 100% salary increase. The timing was perfect, I
thought, and come July I would be able to surprise my lovedones with a party.

The salary increase did not materialize, so don't believe the newspapers and politicians. By June I accepted greater service so I was busy, I was tired, and I felt there was no reason to have a party anymore. I looked at the amount of love God had given me, and my friends, officemates, parents, siblings, brothers and sisters, and I realized just to be alive and loved is a reason to celebrate!

That, plus a hundred different things that came my way this year. A trip to Sydney, a fulfilling job, a loving community, and a whole lot more. I thought, Lord, you're right. It's time to party. He assured me that He would provide.

Last week, God did provide. :) Food and drinks flowed and I did not have to beg, borrow or steal for that. People came to celebrate the dawn of my last year as a twentysomething. God is faithful even though I was not! Though I have to pray daily for the grace to be grateful, one look at the 80 people who came and the others who called, emailed and texted, my brain tells me I have to say thank you.

Thank you everyone for being the cast of this telenovela. Secrets, grade school barkada. Phinx, high school friends. A-99, law school blockmates. Lingkod, community. Officemates. Friends. Family. God is so generous! My cup runneth over.

This email was not sent earlier because of technical problems. At least because of the passage of time, the message has been properly summarized. Otherwise kung nasulat ko agad ito after the party baka nobela na naman. :)

I hope that you all have the time to enjoy your blessings, which abound, even in times of adversity. God bless everyone!